From worst to first: How some teams have dealt with a losing culture

Sean McVay coaches a game verus the Seattle Seahawks. Getty Images photo by Steve Dykes.

Sean McVay coaches a game verus the Seattle Seahawks. Getty Images photo by Steve Dykes.

Connor Mcpherson

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The anticipation could be felt from a mile away. The wait was finally going to be over. Over eight million people all tuned in to witness history being made.

As the final ten seconds ran out, the city of Cleveland was louder than it ever has been before since Kyrie Irving and Lebron James left. A wave of relief could be felt throughout the fanbase, the city and the players as the Browns had won their first football game in 635 days.

And while it feels as if the Browns have finally found a reliable quarterback, it is important to remember that having a losing culture in the locker room can transcend players, coaches, general managers and even owners.

A losing culture is essentially a locker room in which the players are used to defeat and are expecting to lose most games they play. This means that players don’t play their hardest, causing them to lose even more. It’s common in every sport, and is incredibly hard to change.

This is why some teams have rebuilding years, in which their main goal is to get money and assets to use during the next season’s free agency period. The more games a team loses, the higher the draft picks that team gets the next draft. During rebuilding years an organization tries to plan for the future in the hopes of ending a losing culture.

This worked for the Philadelphia 76ers, who, just two years ago, were the laughing stock of the NBA, but now are a projected top three team in the Eastern Conference. They drafted three young talented players in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz who have dug this team out of its slump, and are dominating the Eastern Conference.

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Number 21 Joel Embiid drives to the basket against the Boston Celtics. Getty Images photo by Simon Cooper.

The New York Mets even tried to change their locker room culture by getting a new manager in Mickey Calloway, and obtaining a mostly new coaching and training staff.

However, while they started 10-1, the Mets eventually slid back into their old ways, and are currently 75-84, and are one of the worst teams in their division. Changing managers doesn’t always work, especially with first year managers.

A case where a change in coaching staff has worked is with the Los Angeles Rams. Former coach Jeff Fisher went 8-8 in 2016. The very next year, the Rams bring in 31-year-old Sean Mcvay, and the Rams went 11-5.

They won the division for the first time in 14 years. This season also convinced superstar running back Todd Gurley to re-sign with the Rams, and they locked him down for an additional four years.

While all these solutions can be great and can work, not all franchises are willing to give up that easily on their teams. They think their players can overcome their slumps without rebuilding or hiring a new coaching staff. This leaves it up to the athletes to overcome their losing ways, and the elite ones are usually able to find a way to win again.

John Elway lost three super bowls before winning two back-to-back. Barry Bonds had a batting average below .250 in the postseason before batting .471 in his only World Series.

Alexander Ovechkin made it to all but three postseasons, and lost every time in the divisional round or earlier. This year he finally beat the Penguins in the divisional round and went on to help his team win the Stanley Cup.

All these examples leave the question: Is Baker Mayfield the next elite quarterback that will change the Browns’ losing ways?

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Baker Mayfield walks off the field after the Browns win their first game in 635 days. Getty images photo by Jason Miller.

While it is far too soon to have questions like this already, it is important to keep an eye on Mayfield, who is attempting to do something that 29 Browns quarterbacks since 1999 before him have failed to do; be a reliable quarterback who can actually win games consistently.

Mayfield did have a good game against the Jets, throwing 17/23 with 201 yards. He also played decent in his first NFL start against the Raiders Sunday, throwing 21/41 with 295 yards, but the Browns lost in overtime. While the Browns are looking better with Mayfield starting, it still remains to be seen whether he can win games consistently for the remainder of the season.

Connor McPherson can be reached at [email protected] or @theGOATMcphers1 on Twitter.

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